A week ago tonight, I was on a flight back to Portland from San Francisco on a plane scattered with women just like me–exhausted, exhilarated, and proud. We felt this way because 8 hours earlier we had completed our Nike Women’s Half and Full Marathons (half for me).
The fun had actually started 2 days earlier when I walked up Polk St exploring the city to discover Union Square covered by tents, sponsors, and women picking up their event packets for the race looming in our immediate future. The expo was run incredibly, I walked right up to the sign-in, got my pink draw string bag filled with coupons, race number, and timing chip. Then, I continued through the tent where I blended my own creamsicle smoothie on a spin bike, got luna bar and POM samples, listened to olympian advice, and admired those getting foot massages.
Little did I know the biggest surprise was just off the square…the outside wall of Nike Town had been covered with a massive sticker displaying all 23,000 runners names. Awesome.
After a sleepless night filled with race jitters and what-ifs my sister (who I was running with), our boyfriends, and I discovered her car window was shattered on the ground, GPS stolen. Our ride to the start line was out of commission and I instantly lost all my nerves for the race…no reason to be nervous, this is for fun! Real life is harder than an optional athletic adventure.
Luckily, after a few blocks of speed walking, my sister and I hailed a cab to drive us to the start line (instead of adding another mile to the 13.1 we were already scheduled to run). We scurried up to the crowd just in time for the start count down:
5-soaking in the experience
4– realizing its 7 am on a Sunday and still dark in San Fran
3– hands up for the countdown music
2– excited nerves hit
1-ready to run!
0-… twenty minute wait until we actually crossed the start line. hah.
Though we were patient and contained our excitement to burst out the gates for 20 minutes, we couldn’t hold back anymore when we heard Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” on the speakers. We decided we had to cross the start line before the end of the song.
The first three miles all 23,000 women were crowded in the city blocks trying to contain our adrenaline to a nice steady start pace–afterall it WAS a marathon, not a sprint. The streets were quickly scattered with clothes that runners became too hot to bear any longer. I was on the edge of outrage at the people littering new, expensive clothing so thoughtlessly on the streets when my sister informed me all of the clothing was going to be picked up post-race and donated. PHEW.
Just when my sister and I thought we might get a window of opportunity to pass some people…you could say we are competitive…we would turn a corner and see the sea of people ahead of us trudging through streets to the pier.
The race course itself was stunning. We started at Union Square, went down to Embarcadero, and ran along the pier, had incredible views of Alcatraz, The Golden Gate, and my favorite: Ghiridelli.
Six miles in we discovered our first big test: 1 mile, straight up. It was time to live the slogan I was sporting on my tank top and “Just Do It”.
We had already faced a few hills, but this winding death trap was something barely anyone was prepared for. After power walking our way up, we got a burst of new energy after passing some familiar faces in the cheering crowd.
The mile down the sea cliff along the ocean made the mile up well worth it. I let my body reach the brink of being out of control and wanted to throw my arms out to my side because I felt light as a feather. The thought of flying down the hill like a child mimicing an airplane made me smile and appreciate the run…though I didn’t actually do it. That would make me look weird.
At mile 7 I channeled the good advice of my BFF Kayla, to “just go for it, it’ll go by quick!”, and I shifted my mind set from “finishing” to “racing”. The last few miles were filled with some more lovely hills…grrr…and inspirational messages from some of the sponsors. Two of my favorite signs posted on the side of the road, and ON the road, were:
- A series of 9 “reasons” to keep running with the final one reading “that necklace is mine” – referring to the Tiffany necklace waiting for all finishers at the finish line.
- A Safeway sign: “Jack & Jill ran up a hill. Jill won.”
Around mile 10 my body started to realize my increase in pace and needed something more than some inspirational signs to keep going. And then I remembered: Ghiridelli mile. Yes, you read that right, awaiting me in the final mile were squares of Ghiridelli chocloate. In my dreams leading up to race day, I imagined tables filled with chocolate in an “all you can grab” scenario…turns out it was a couple girls handing you one square from a cardboard box as you turned a corner. At least it was good motivation! And you know I ripped open that chocolate square 1.1 miles later after the finish line.
Speaking of the finish line, it came out of nowhere. I turned a corner after I had just convinced myself the final mile was going to seem like forever, I saw the “FINISH” banner and tents only a few hundred meters away. I sprinted.
…halfway through the sprint I questioned my decision to sprint after 13 miles…and then I saw her: the lady walking who was going to cross the finish line before me. I DON’T THINK SO. She was my final conquest, I sprinted by her just before crossing the line. Success.
After dropping to my knees to catch my breath, I looked up and saw the little blue box that had convinced me to sign up for this race in the first place. My Tiffany necklace was now just that, mine. The weekends slogan, “I Run To Be,” graced the silver pendant. It hasn’t left my neck since.
Hard to see, but you get the idea.
All in all, my first half marathon experience was incredible. I did not expect anything less from Nike, and am contemplating my next athletic endeavor…